Just last semester, I found my passion for chemistry, through 28 5th grade students. These 5th grade students at Weemes Elementary School taught me the importance of clarity and simplicity, and broadened my understanding for others.
Last semester I participated in a program through JEP (Joint Educational Project) teaching chemistry at a nearby school. We were instructed to lead a mini-course over eight weeks to better prepare the students for future science classes and their standardized exams. At first, I was hesitant. Chemistry is not my strongest subject and I did not need a class full of 5th graders to remind me of that. But as I entered Ms. Caro’s class, I saw 28 young students ready to learn and excited for the future.
As I planned the lessons with my fellow USC students, I was forced to simplify the material and summarize it in a clear and concise way. I was shocked that coming up with an elementary level lesson plan was what held the key to a much deeper understanding of the basic concepts in chemistry such as acids and bases. And of course no chemistry class is complete without a lab section! The experiments rocked! By the end of our mini-course, at least half of Ms. Caro’s class told us that they want to go into research or science when they grow up. We made slime to learn about the states of matter or used snack mix to learn about mixtures. Ms. Caro even admitted to us that her students love the time with their USC teachers so much that she even once threatened to take away a chemistry lesson if her students misbehaved!
The feeling we got entering those big blue doors is indescribable. They all greeted us warmly and appreciated our time and efforts. But as a mini-course leader, I am grateful for my own personal growth as an individual, both socially and academically. Teaching this course encouraged me to allot more time to my own chemistry course and thus succeed. I not only did better that semester than I had ever previously done in a chemistry course, but I also genuinely enjoyed the subject matter (yes, even now in organic chemistry). Socially, I am proud to say that I have an increased sense of self-efficacy as a young woman because I see the impact that I can have on real social challenges.
To hear that one person can make a difference is cliché, but to believe that you can make a difference is powerful, especially at a young age. As Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I hope to enter my future not only as a professional, but also as a community member, someone who is aware of her surroundings and who wants to improve it. This program with JEP truly enriched my USC experience and continues to do so. What can I say?… I guess I found my chemistry with chemistry.